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FEMA officials tour Mayes County flood damage

FEMA officials tour Mayes County flood damage

This article first appeared in the Tulsa World.

by: RHETT MORGAN World Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
5/12/2009 7:02:52 PM

PRYOR — Federal Emergency Management Agency officials toured Mayes County on Tuesday to verify an estimated $2 million to $3 million in recent flood damage to public infrastructure, FEMA spokesman Winston Barton said.

FEMA joined state, county and local officials to make preliminary damage assessments, which will be used to determine if the state and county qualify for federal disaster aid.

For Oklahoma to become eligible, the state needs to identify $4.6 million in public infrastructure damage, FEMA official Mike Clow said. The Mayes County threshold is $120,000, said Johnny Janzen, director of Mayes County Emergency Management.

“I think we’re in good shape,” Janzen said of the potential for federal help.

More than 8 inches of rain fell on parts of Mayes County May 1-2, causing widespread flooding. The heavy rain is blamed for the May 2 death of a 49-year-old Pryor woman who drowned after her car was swept away by floodwaters on a county road.

Damage-assessment teams, which are scheduled to survey Cherokee County on Wednesday, inspected damage to buildings, utilities, roads and bridges in Mayes County.

They also spoke to public safety personnel to pinpoint disaster money spent on such things as overtime and fuel, both of which are eligible for reimbursement, Barton said.

Once a fiscal estimate is compiled, they will present it to Gov. Brad Henry, who will make the request for federal aid to President Barack Obama.

FEMA’s public assistance program to state and local governments pays 75 percent of approved costs. The remaining 25 percent is split between the state and city, officials said.

Janzen said most of the damage in the county was in and around Pryor, Chouteau, Locust Grove and Salina. Water caused about $700,000 damage to Chouteau Public Schools property.

It also will cost an estimated $700,000 to replace a county bridge that washed out about seven miles east of Locust Grove, he said.

Floodwaters, too, damaged water plants in Salina and Locust Grove, causing water outages in both of those municipalities, Janzen said.

Carl Scott, a longtime road foreman for District 3 in Mayes County, drove Tuesday to County Road 447, which has been closed this month because of a damaged bridge.

Floodwaters there formed a gulley in the road about 15 feet deep and at least eight feet wide.

“Last year, the flooding was pretty bad,” Scott said. “But this year it’s been worse.”

Oklahoma, on a per-capita basis, has more major federally declared disasters than any other in the nation, he said.

Ice storms, floods, wildfires and tornadoes contributed to the state having nine declared disasters in 2007 and five more in ’08, he said.


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Associate Images:

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Carl Scott, a road foreman for District 3 in Mayes County, inspects a flood-damaged county bridge about seven miles east of Locust Grove. The assessments will used to see if the county qualifies for federal assistance. RHETT MORGAN/Tulsa World

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